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Gene Test for Blood Doping?

The Guardian reports on a "gene test" that is under consideration by the International Olympic Committee as a possible method for finding blood doping cases at next year's Olympics in Tokyo.

The strategy — which has been under development by a sports science and genetics researcher at the University of Brighton for more than a decade — is intended to flag athletes who have used erythropoietin (EPO) or blood transfusions to enhance levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cell in the months leading up to the Games.

"Using volunteer athletes, [the University of Brighton's Yannis Pitsiladis] and his team have identified which genes are 'turned on' when blood has been manipulated by either the use of a banned substance such as EPO that boosts the production of red blood cells or a transfusion," explains The Guardian's chief sports reporter Sean Ingle.

Before it can be used at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the gene-based test would first need to get a nod from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Regardless, the International Olympic Committee plans to collect samples from Olympic athletes for future testing.

Last year, Wired outlined an anti-doping scheme under consideration by the World Anti-Doping Agency that involved sequencing Olympic athletes to pick up intentional gene expression doctoring or other types of "gene doping."

New Scientist touched on concerns being raised around potential gene doping methods in advance of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The following year, the World Anti-Doping Agency included gene editing agents on its list of banned substances.